“What is now proved was once only imagined.”
William Blake

A story by Michael Burns

It was one of those, afternoons. Sitting at a small café, light diffused, not quite there — surreal.

Light waiting to happen. On the edge of waiting to happen…ready.
Perhaps, waiting for something, someone — a stagehand to flip a switch, so that, it might play and create further an ambiance necessary for the unfolding of a great drama.

A simple prop in the gamut of this reality.

Leaves jumped of willow branches like small children going for a ride, and rode down the narrow street on the breeze as orange ashes till they reached the ground. And then rolling, scurrying away. As if, giggling down the cobbled street.

It was cool…


I looked up and there he was, watching me — staring. He had what looked like a coffee cup at his right…yes it was a cup, and he picked it up in the man’s way and drank from it and proceeded to stare out and then down at me again. We held that look for a time; he tipped his black hat back of his forehead. And then, he began typing on what looked like one of those ancient, clunky old-fashioned Coronas, you know…the ones that war correspondents carried around all over battlefield Europe during the Second World War? I should know, that is where I cut my teeth so many moons ago. Battlefield Europe. Clickity clacking scenes; the scenes of death and dying, and awfulness of war.

My eyes left his two fingers pounding on that make-shift piano without a sound and turned towards a voice. An inner voice, and then…drifting in its echo through my mind.

“Madame, voulez-vous donc plus de café.”

I looked up and into his eyes; the waiter was so young, a child really. A glance and suddenly, I felt so very, very old. I didn’t like that, his youthful presence made me feel, so used up and full of memory. I became embarrassed for myself having thought that, and pulled in for a moment, as if being caught naked and exposed, being old. As if, he read my mind. I turned and breathed, “Non merci…je l’ai eu assez. Mon chèque s’il vous plaît.”

The young man smiled a young man’s smile and walked quietly back into the café.

The leaves danced and rolled along and down the street ahead of the gentle hands of the slight wind, and strangers passed. The scene kept changing, forever shifting… changing. Like a glitchy video.

Men walking in and out of a door to a building across the street, large sums of money in their hands; colors and smell of perfume, and then of flowers and a single dog with three legs, stopped at my table and looked up at me — intently. Fierce eyes, I was aware that he was aware of me.

The sun broke through the distant mist as an intruder into a house and then left like a thief in the same kind of hurry. And the mist rose again and enveloped everything in that strange light again.

I looked up at my observer and there he was, dark, handsome — typing, violently onto that machine. And the words came out from the top of his typewriter and took shape… formed into color and texture. It had volume and became the air and the fashion of things, and the buildings around. Like a dream unfolding, unpacked from the clicking clacking sound. The very bricks under my feet — and the leaves flying around in the tender breeze.

He was writing reality.

I watched on and saw him look back to me occasionally, stop and think for a extended moment then begin his playing upon his instrument. His music was asking for a real sound. He seemed interested in me and my doings.

And then the music did start — I could hear it, and I looked to my right side. There sat, my date, a very young dark man, and I was young… listening to the orchestra in a very large and dimly lit hall. The smell of incense and the crowded perfumes of rich Berliners.

It was the  Staatsoper Unter den Linden and the opening of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, was beginning its entrance into the tall air above my head.

I constricted my yawn, and cover it with my hand.

He looked so handsome in his black tails, sharp features and strong European accent in the covered whisper of our small talk.

The symbols crashed and the roar of the orchestra rose to its intro. I lean into the side of his fragrance, and clean shaven face, lingered in the redolence, waiting for him to listen, and said softly in a whisper to his cocked ear “ I will return shortly, mon cheri I promise.” He turned his head on a swivel and smiled that high German smile and I rose from the balcony chair and exited the door behind us. Walking along in a stride, the red plush carpet under my shoes, past enameled walls and period French art, and massive blue Ming vases of slaughtered flowers…the smell of wet dead flowers.

The bottom of my evening gown swishing to my step, setting a tempo, a sequined glittering tempo. And the music behind and to the back of me.

I stop for a moment, and made sure I was alone, and looked back and front, and back again. I listened. I opened my little clutch purse and removed in gloved hand, the small ivory-handled two-shot pistol, therein. I checked its deadly contents…and there they were, the two brass .41 caliber shells snug in their holes of the Remington Double Derringer. I closed its little breach and cocked the pistol. Then I put it back in my little place. And continued my walk to the time.

Advancing seconds later and a young German officer in black passed and smiled the smile of an aristocrat. A handsome evil. The smile of the privileged SS. Touching the visor of his black skull-and-bone emblazoned cap, and with a slight bow as he passed like a Austrian gentleman. I gave away a simple smile on passing him.

“ […] Looking handsome in your fine uniforms. Dressing up and doing the terrible, terrible things you do. Its makes me ashamed.” 

— The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

I strode down a long flight of stairs to the ground floor, and enter the grand entrance to the great hall. A narrower hallway just to my left invited me to step in and go beyond into that blackness. The scene changing, flowing out in front of me like spilled paint from a can.

Without a change in my step, I moved forward and along, glancing at numbers on the doors of the private ground floor galleries. 126, 127… 128…and 129; I stop and turned and waited a moment, the sounds of the orchestra rose to a crescendo. Crashing Wagner; symbols and toms; music fugues loudly, and louder…and I looked both ways, and turned the faceted glass knob, on the brass door handle of the door and entered the darkened room. As the loudness of the music rose an octave upon my entrance.

A small alcove was in the dim light with a thick dark blue velvet curtain in front of me. Low light and the smell of old heavy fabric. Closing the door quietly behind me, I stop and take a long, deep, quiet breath. I removed my long gloves… open the purse and grasped the little gun in my right hand and feel its weight. I like its heaviness. I walk slowly through the curtain and see them sitting there…backs to me, so very close together, above and separate from the main hall seating, just feet below the private box. The lights and loudness of the music, crashing. The stilted blackness back in here. They couldn’t hear me. No one could hear me, or see me. Their chairs barely apart; the staccato image of the old Obergruppenführer and a girl, a child barely fifteen, dressed in a black gown made for someone thirty and perfumed, so old for her age.

I walked up to him swiftly, in grace and placed the gun at his left temple, he looked around and up at me in shock, a frozen second about to yell and I fired — a crack sound lost in the crashing entrance of music and symbols and drums and he slumped forward like a rag doll in the large chair. I had to grab his collar and pull him back, his head flopped backwards and rested on the high backed opera chair. She looked at me in shock about to scream, an innocent in the wrong place. I put my index finger to my pursed lips in a shush. And she remained quiet and shocked. Youth shining against the stage light — her and I caught in that for just long painful few seconds. I hesitated… and knew her fate if I didn’t kill her. I felt sick at that only option. Slowly then I placed the little gun on her temple. She knew as well as I, and bowed her head delicately as if a swan. I looked into her face, she was a young Jewess. The music rose, submissive, knowing. And in its deafening crash, I fired once again and her release from this terrible part she was playing for them…

I blinked and looked up and there he was, staring again at me. Then typing again.

I move in my chair to adjust the skirt of my grey suit, on my body, it was pinching me in places. Taking a drink of my Americano and picking up the new folded newspaper to the side, I open it and read the headline: Explosion at Secret Nuclear Storage Facility…
I place the paper beside me on a chair and took another drink of my coffee. I pick up my sunglasses and put them on my face and look up to my observer.

I was standing now suddenly beside him, and I say…

“Forget the message, just concentrate on the context. Reality two is intersecting with Reality one, the one you know every day. That’s the point. Where we are now is two. It’s invisible most of the time. But it’s far more powerful than the place where you live. What you do with that knowledge is up to you. No one can advise you.”…